Sustainable Farming

Spotlight on Blue Ledge Farm

We’re thrilled to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on a local cheese-making family that produces incredible award-winning cow and goat’s milk cheeses, while also keeping a strong focus on environmental stewardship. All Blue Ledge Farm cheeses will be 20% off for member-owners from June 6th – 12th!  Read on to learn more about their farm in Salisbury, VT and the steps they take to care for their land while also producing fabulous cheeses :

 

 

Blue Ledge Farm is a first generation, family owned and run goat dairy and cheese-making operation established in 2000 by Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt. Their mission is to create a high-quality product built on the cornerstones of respect for consumers, land, and animals as well as their local community.

They initially started milking four goats at Blue Ledge Farm and began processing cheese two years later. Today they milk over 100 goats twice daily and produce eleven types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to harder cheeses aged three months.

The 150 acres of Blue Ledge Farm consists of woods, hayland, pasture, and wetland. Recognizing the ecological value of the wetland ecosystem, they recently preserved the fifty acres of wetland on their farm through the Vermont Land Trust. Their 125 goats spend spring, summer, and fall days browsing in the woods, return to the barn for 4 pm milking, and lounge around in a grass pasture as evening sets. It’s no wonder that they recently became certified as an Animal Welfare Approved Farm!

Sustainable farming practices are a top priority at Blue Ledge Farm. They compost their bed-pack manure and apply it to their fields, thereby completing the nutrient cycle from grass to goat and back to grass. In 2008 they built an underground aging facility, or “cave” which is naturally cool and moist, conditions that the cheese likes, and being underground it takes less energy to keep the temperature and humidity at desirable levels. They have partnered with Efficiency Vermont on several projects over the years, from a variable-speed efficient milking machine to more efficient cooling compressors, to newer fluorescent light bulbs, all in an effort to lower their impact on the environment. At the heart of their operation is the clean-burning EPA-Approved bio-mass furnace, which allows them to heat their home, cheese-house, and barn, as well as all of the hot water used in the cheese plant, with locally-produced wood pellets! In 2015 they covered the south facing roof of their barn with solar panels which provide nearly half of the farm’s electricity usage all summer long!

On the Co-op shelves, look for Blue Ledge Farm’s goat’s milk cheeses, including La Luna, Crottina, Lake’s Edge, Riley’s Coat, and four varieties of fresh chèvre. You’ll also find a cheese called Riley’s 2 X 4, which is made with a blend of cow and goat’s milk. Additionally, be sure to try their cow’s milk cheeses, including Camembrie, Middlebury Blue, and their newest cheese – Richville! Which one is your favorite?

 

June is Dairy Month

Since 1937, Americans have been celebrating June as National Dairy Month. As we take this time to heartily celebrate our dairy farmers this month, it’s hard to avoid mention of the many challenges that dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country continue to face as they endure the fifth consecutive year of low farm-gate milk prices. This means that the price farmers are paid for the milk they produce is well below the cost of production. As a recent press release from Rural Vermont states, “our agricultural heartbeat is in threat, as is our farmland. With an average farmer age of 58 and consistently inadequate milk prices, the future for our dairy community, and its accompanying 80% of Vermont’s agricultural land is in jeopardy as it goes through a formative transition.” 

The Local Scene

Our local dairy farmers need our support now more than ever, though some recent developments give us reason to feel optimistic.  In April of 2019 over 50 Vermont dairy farmers and eaters gathered for a meeting geared toward developing strategies for viability. The overwhelming sentiment shared throughout the meeting was one of hope and gratitude for the local support they’re receiving. The six dairy farmers on the panel that day, along with many other conventional and organic dairy farmers in attendance, underscored the value of having strong local support. They recognized the need to provide ongoing education for the community about the impact of supporting local dairy. As George van Vlaanderen of Does’ Leap Farm in East Fairfield stated, “It’s contingent on us to educate friends and neighbors about where our food comes from and the impact of voting with your dollars. We can support a prosperous agricultural future by supporting our farmer neighbors today.” Amber Machia of Red Barn in HIghgate echoed his sentiments, reminding those in attendance that impact of spending food dollars locally extends well beyond the farms, affecting the multitude of other local businesses connected to local dairy farms, including feed supply stores, trucking companies, label and package makers, and distribution hubs.

Happy grass-fed cows at Butterworks Farm

National Support

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, played a key role in forging the 2018 Farm Bill’s dairy priorities and, as a result of his efforts, the Farm Bill dramatically expanded support for dairy producers, providing flexible, affordable coverage options through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program. The goal of the Farm Bill is to benefit producers of all sizes, but offers up to five times more support for the smallest farms, as those farms tend to be hardest hit during times of crisis. This is particularly good news for Vermont dairy farmers, as most manage herds of less than 200 cattle, qualifying them as small dairies by national standards. Leahy, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and others, penned a bipartisan letter in April asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to help provide some much-needed relief to dairy farmers without delay. Leahy followed that up with an additional bipartisan letter on May 17th urging Perdue to increase trade war relief payments to a level that more accurately reflects the damages dairy farmers have faced, as the current trade mitigation program has failed to fairly compensate dairy farmers slammed by retaliatory tariffs. It sure is nice to have a local Senator fighting so hard for our farmers.

Milk with Dignity

A bright spot in local dairy news this year was the adoption of the Milk with Dignity program by local dairy giant Ben & Jerry’s. In a recent article in VT Digger, Marita Canedo, Migrant Justice staff member and event panelist representing the Milk with Dignity Program, reflected on Ben & Jerry’s adoption of the program as a human rights victory. “It took more than two years in a public campaign and 4 years in conversation. We had to have translators and it took a long time, but we finally had everyone at the same table. There are human rights in that ice cream.” The Milk with Dignity Program brings together farmers, farmworker, buyers, and consumers to ensure dignified working conditions in the dairy supply chain, asking the corporations making the most in the dairy industry to pay for a higher standard of human rights for workers.

This came as part of a larger Values-Led Dairy Vision adopted by Ben & Jerry’s, which specifies that all dairy used by Ben & Jerry’s in the manufacture of its products will be sourced from dairy farms which have:

  • Thriving and dignified livelihoods for farmers and farm workers
  • Exceptional animal welfare standards for cows
  • A flourishing ecosystem in which feed is grown ecologically, without the use of harmful chemicals or GMOs, and in a way that protects water resources and promotes biological diversity
  • Farm operations acting as a net carbon sink through minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil.

Ben & Jerry’s sources most of the milk and cream from members of the St. Albans Cooperative. 

Grass-fed Organic Dairy Offers Solutions

The US milk glut and the accompanying drop in dairy prices over the past few years have wielded a tough blow for conventional and organic dairy farmers alike, though organic and grass-fed dairy farms are still faring better than their conventional counterparts. Consumers are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting organic dairy production that utilizes traditional pasture-based systems of rotational grazing. Not only does this system of natural grazing aid the environment in terms of soil restoration, increased biodiversity, improved water quality, and flood mitigation – but it also it guarantees healthy lives for the animals, and they, in turn, produce meat and milk that is healthier for us than the grain-fed alternatives. Soil scientists have determined that grazing animals are critical to the process of building soil organic matter. According to Jean Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm, who presented at the recent Real Organic Project Symposium at Dartmouth, a mere one-percent increase in the soil organic matter on the four billion acres that are used for agricultural production on our planet would allow for the sequestration of 102 billion tons of carbon dioxide. When raising livestock using managed rotational grazing, it is possible to sink more carbon than one is producing, making organic agricultural production an active part of the solution to the ongoing threat of climate change.  

Happy grass-fed cows at Larson Farm & Creamery

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Blue Ledge Farm

We’re thrilled to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on a local cheese-making family that produces incredible award-winning cow and goat’s milk cheeses, while also keeping a strong focus on environmental stewardship. All Blue Ledge Farm cheeses will be 20% off for member-owners from June 6th – 12th!  Read on to learn more about their farm in Salisbury, VT and the steps they take to care for their land while also producing fabulous cheeses :

 

 

Blue Ledge Farm is a first generation, family owned and run goat dairy and cheese-making operation established in 2000 by Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt. Their mission is to create a high-quality product built on the cornerstones of respect for consumers, land, and animals as well as their local community.

They initially started milking four goats at Blue Ledge Farm and began processing cheese two years later. Today they milk over 100 goats twice daily and produce eleven types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to harder cheeses aged three months.

The 150 acres of Blue Ledge Farm consists of woods, hayland, pasture, and wetland. Recognizing the ecological value of the wetland ecosystem, they recently preserved the fifty acres of wetland on their farm through the Vermont Land Trust. Their 125 goats spend spring, summer, and fall days browsing in the woods, return to the barn for 4 pm milking, and lounge around in a grass pasture as evening sets. It’s no wonder that they recently became certified as an Animal Welfare Approved Farm!

Sustainable farming practices are a top priority at Blue Ledge Farm. They compost their bed-pack manure and apply it to their fields, thereby completing the nutrient cycle from grass to goat and back to grass. In 2008 they built an underground aging facility, or “cave” which is naturally cool and moist, conditions that the cheese likes, and being underground it takes less energy to keep the temperature and humidity at desirable levels. They have partnered with Efficiency Vermont on several projects over the years, from a variable-speed efficient milking machine to more efficient cooling compressors, to newer fluorescent light bulbs, all in an effort to lower their impact on the environment. At the heart of their operation is the clean-burning EPA-Approved bio-mass furnace, which allows them to heat their home, cheese-house, and barn, as well as all of the hot water used in the cheese plant, with locally-produced wood pellets! In 2015 they covered the south facing roof of their barn with solar panels which provide nearly half of the farm’s electricity usage all summer long!

On the Co-op shelves, look for Blue Ledge Farm’s goat’s milk cheeses, including La Luna, Crottina, Lake’s Edge, Riley’s Coat, and four varieties of fresh chèvre. You’ll also find a cheese called Riley’s 2 X 4, which is made with a blend of cow and goat’s milk. Additionally, be sure to try their cow’s milk cheeses, including Camembrie, Middlebury Blue, and their newest cheese – Richville! Which one is your favorite?

 

Spotlight on Blue Ledge Farm

If you’re planning to put together a cheese or charcuterie board for your New Year’s Eve gathering, be sure to pick up some Blue Ledge Camembrie! We’re featuring this divine cheese in our weekly sale from December 28th – January 3rd. Made with fresh Ayrshire cow’s milk, this is a smooth mold-ripened Camembert/Brie hybrid. A buttery slice of bovine heaven! It pairs well with a light red or white wine and is a great match for any type of cured meats. Read on to learn more about the makers of this fine cheese and their sustainable dairy farm in Salisbury, VT:

 

 

Blue Ledge Farm is a first generation, family owned and run goat dairy and cheese-making operation established in 2000 by Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt. Their mission is to create a high quality product built on the cornerstones of respect for consumers, land and animals as well as their local community.

They initially started milking four goats at Blue Ledge Farm, and began processing cheese two years later. Today they milk 125 goats twice daily and produce eleven types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to harder cheeses aged three months.

The 150 acres of Blue Ledge Farm consist of woods, hayland, pasture and wetland. Recognizing the ecological value of the wetland ecosystem, they recently preserved the fifty acres of wetland on their farm through the Vermont Land Trust. Their 125 goats spend spring, summer, and fall days browsing in the woods, return to the barn for 4 pm milking, and lounge around in a grass pasture as evening sets. It’s no wonder that they recently became certified as an Animal Welfare Approved Farm!

Sustainable farming practices are top priority at Blue Ledge Farm. They compost their bed-pack manure and apply it to their fields, thereby completing the nutrient cycle from grass to goat and back to grass. In 2008 they built an underground aging facility, or “cave” which is naturally cool and moist, conditions that the cheese likes, and being underground it takes less energy to keep the temperature and humidity at desirable levels. They have partnered with Efficiency Vermont on several projects over the years, from a variable-speed efficient milking machine, to more efficient cooling compressors, to newer fluorescent light bulbs, all in an effort to lower their impact on the environment. At the heart of their operation is the clean-burning EPA-Approved bio-mass furnace, which allows them to heat their home, cheese-house and barn, as well as all of the hot water used in the cheese plant, with locally-produced wood pellets! In 2015 they covered the south facing roof of their barn with solar panels which provide nearly half of the farm’s electricity usage all summer long!

In addition to the Camembrie on Co-op shelves, you’ll also find their lovely fresh Chevres in several flavors, Crottina, Lake’s Edge, Middlebury Blue, La Luna, Mixed Drum, and, when available, Riley’s Coat. Enjoy!

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